Wednesday 20 September 2017

McGinley puts trust in McDowell to lead Europe to triumph

Captain Paul McGinley
Captain Paul McGinley

Dermot Gilleece at Gleneagles

Graeme McDowell will today become the first Irishman to lead singles battle for a European Ryder Cup team. And Paul McGinley, revealed last night that it was a decision he had made, as far back as two years ago.

With a commanding lead of 10-6, McGinley has led with strength as he would have learned from his amateur days of Senior Cup and Home International matches. But he has also been careful to position strength down the order so as to avert the sort of momentum that Europe achieved from the same deficit in their comeback at Medinah.

"I always had in mind that Graeme was going to play number one, if I ever became captain," McGinley said. "It is something I have never shared with anybody, not even with Graeme. In fact it was only last Wednesday that I told him what his role was to be this week.

"He's a fighter where you need a fighter; a big player with a big heart who loves the big occasion."

Part of that plan was for McDowell to play only one match yesterday, so that he would be fresh a role that has been filled by such notables as Seve Ballesteros, Ian Woosnam and Colin Montgomerie.

The manner of Tom Watson's line-up, speaks volumes for his lack of faith in what would have been considered the senior members of his side. Given that he needs points in a hurry, it is difficult to place any other interpretation on the choice of rookies Spieth and Reed at numbers one and two, notwithstanding their splendid play in taking two and a half pairs points from a possible three.

Equally significant is the placing of Phil Mickelson, Bubba Watson and Matt Kuchar at five, six and seven in his order. And putting former US Masters champion, Zach Johnson, in the anchor position where he faces the formidable Frenchman, Victory Dubuisson.

This should be a victory march for Europe, especially in view of the emphasis McGinley has placed on removing any hint of complacency from their thinking. In this context, he placed particular emphasis on Alex Ferguson's words to his players in a special team-room visit last week.

Meanwhile, Watson maintained predictable optimism, though it was belied, somewhat, by his decidedly subdued demeanour. "These guys, they are ready and make it work tomorrow," he said defiantly. But he will know that despite the events at Brookline in 1999, when the US won from the same position, the trophy is almost certain to remain this side of the pond.

TODAY'S PAIRINGS

11.36 McDowell v Spieth

11.48 Stenson v Reed

12.0 McIlroy v Fowler

12.12 Rose v Mahan

12.24 Gallacher v Mickelson

12.36 Kaymer v Watson

12.48 Bjorn v Kuchar

1.0 Garcia v Furyk

1.12 Poulter v Simpson

1.24 Donaldson v Bradley

1.36 Westwood v Walker

1.48 Dubuisson v Johnson

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